As has been obvious to anyone paying attention to politics for about the past thirty years, the Republican Party has been escalating a war on science and expertise. In order to keep their evangelical wing on the same page, they've tried to demonstrate hostility to the concept of evolution, at first by championing the pseudoscientific gobbledygook of intelligent design, and then in more recent years by simply denying the truth of Darwin's insight. Even more importantly, they have long tried to obfuscate the truth about global warming once a scientific consensus emerged, initially responding by evasions and sophistry, but accelerated to outright denial in the past few years. In recent years they've even made tentative inroads toward the antivaccine movement, though that has traditionally been the happy hunting ground for the fringe left. We could list more examples, but we'll assume that these examples will suffice.
And perhaps before moving forward, it's worth briefly addressing the inevitable harrumphs of those who worship at the altar of false equivalence and insist that since the Republican Party has what amounts to an official policy of hostility to science, the same must be true of the Democratic Party. In short: no. Yes, it's true that there are some left wing movements that incorporate a vague kind of disregard for scientific expertise, principally the antivaccine movement (although as noted above, this has developed a bipartisan fringe tinge), and the opposition to genetically modified foods is generally rooted in progressivism (and while much of this opposition is based on total nonsense, at the Billy Rubin Blog, we think some aspects GMO skepticism, particularly when it comes to issues regarding biodiversity, is not entirely without scientific merit).
But it doesn't take a Kissinger to observe that these groups are relegated to the fringe of the party, and in fact are mostly outside the Democratic tent pissing in, demonstrating how little power they really have. When fringe third-party presidential candidate (and former physician) Jill Stein ran as the nominee of the Green Party in 2016, she sounded some antivax dog whistles to her constituency to mollify them. For her troubles, she got verbally flayed by the solidly left Huffington Post and the center/wonky left Vox, among other outlets. And you can't find one US Senator from the Democratic Party who would champion this or other similarly nonsensical beliefs, but demonstrating contempt for the scientific process is worn as a badge of honor by many of the most powerful Republicans.
As I said, this is no recent innovation within the Republican Party structure, but without any question Trump has turbocharged the activation of the pitchfork brigade. His embrace of climate denial is, like everything else about him, not done by half-measures. Previously, forked-tongued Republicans dealt with the subject by acknowledging that "climate change" is occurring, but would minimize the impact and point to other causes. Not so with Trump, who simply disregards the evidence. Since he lies to advance his personal interests, he assumes that everyone else does, too.
Which brings us to COVID. We could link you to about a thousand well-written articles now documenting the various missteps of the Trump administration, from the early hours of the outbreak up until five minutes ago; we assume you're already aware of the glaring incompetence of the man and his underlings. Moreover, you're almost certainly equally aware of his desperate embrace of medications that never looked promising, and his more unhinged pronouncements on disinfectants and ultraviolet light.
Yet the virus marches on, despite Trump's attempts to distract and distort. And as the bodies continue to pile up, Trump is likely to become even more unhinged in his public statements, if that's even possible. But supposing it is, one very straightforward way is to capitalize on those decades of the Republican Party program to nurture a hatred for the (liberal), elite, educated classes so smug in their coastal enclaves, is to deny the reality of the situation itself. 70,000 deaths? That's just fake news. You would think that in a sane and prosperous society, this would be an impossible gambit. But there's already a whiff in the air that this strategy is coming any day now, if it hasn't already. After all, since disregarding solid evidence is not precisely a new strategy for Trump, and a kind of barely-contained rage at experts is a feature of his administration, why should COVID mortality statistics be sacred?
I'll go out on a limb here and make a prediction that that's only the beginning, and denying the reality of the size and scope of the epidemic is only going to be the first move in a more active campaign against the medical establishment itself. Medicare is offering twenty percent bonuses for the care of COVID patients; this is being done so that these hospitals, which are hemorrhaging money both by decreased revenue and by purchasing all the equipment required for COVID care, can stay financially solvent.
But don't color me surprised that in Trumpland, this will provide the basis for accusations of fraud. Where it goes from there, we don't know, although it is safe to say that tens of millions of people will continue to buy what he's selling. But the finger's about to get pointed at us, and I would not be surprised to see a local hospital somewhere be on the receiving end of the kinds of death threats aimed at Dr. Fauci should Trump whip them up. As Trump himself notes, he does not take responsibility for anything, especially something like COVID, so with each passing day, a new target is required.